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New Fighting In Grozny

Grozny, March 8 (RFE/RL) - Heavy fighting is reported to have resumed today in the center of the Chechen capital Grozny and in its south-west suburb, where Russian forces have launched a new assault on remaining pockets of separatist fighters.

According to the Itar-tass news agency, fighting between Russian soldiers and Chechen separatists is continuing near the building of the pro-Moscow Chechen government.

News reports say the roar of gunfire, mortar and artillery rang through Grozny again today and downtown streets were devoid of cars and people.

Earlier today, a Russian armored convoy entered the city center to help in battles against Chechen fighters. Tass said the troop convoy arrived following a night of shooting in Grozny.

Russian forces have been trying to reinforce strategic areas in the Chechen capital to hold off a rebel offensive.

There are differing accounts of Russian and pro-Russian Chechen casualties, ranging from 70 to 120 dead, with more than 100 others wounded or missing. There have been no details of Chechen casualties.

Meanwhile, three Russian workers from the electric plant "Grozenergo" were released today. The plant director Nurdi Ussamov said that the hostages had been held by Chechens since Wednesday.

Tass also quoted Russian interior ministry officials in Grozny as saying Chechen fighters captured about 100 civilian hostages last night. There has been no independent confirmation of this report.

Meanwhile, Russian Interior Minister Anatoly Kulikov headed to Chechnya today for talks with military commanders and Chechen representatives on settling the conflict in the republic.

Russian news agencies said Kulikov was accompanied by pro-Moscow Chechen leader Doku Zavgayev.

Russian President Boris Yeltsin said yesterday he had approved a blueprint of a peace plan for the region. He said he would give details of the plan at the end of this month.